Indie Untangled Everywhere Untangling: Birdie Parker

A woman with red dyed hair and black glasses.

This is the 10th in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of Indie Untangled Everywhere, taking place from October 15-17, 2020.

Metalsmithing doesn’t seem to have much in common with the fiber arts, but Kristi Jensen of Birdie Parker Designs has pulled both together seamlessly. After earning a BFA in Metalsmithing from California State University Long Beach in 2016, Kristi turned her skill into a fiber-focused jewelry business. Her jewels have donned many an ear, wrist and shawl, and she’s expanded into other unique items, such as light switch plates, all bearing her signature stitch designs.

How did you decide to study metalsmithing in college?

I originally intended to major in sculpture, but found that the program at my school wasn’t a good fit for me. A friend suggested that I check out the metalsmithing program and I instantly fell in love. I get to play with hammers and fire? Sign me up!

What led you to turn that skill into a fiber-focused jewelry business?

Like many fine arts majors, once I graduated I was faced with trying to figure out how to turn my new knowledge into a marketable skill. I played around with different ideas and mediums but nothing really fit. All throughout my time in the metalsmithing program, I was avidly knitting and padding my schedule with classes from the Fibers department, and it finally occurred to me: the fiber world didn’t have much going on in the way of jewelry at the time. I turned my focus toward trying to replicate the stitches of fibers arts in metal. After much experimentation, I developed a technique with electro-etching that eventually became my signature element.

Leaf shaped earrings with etched knitting stitches.

Can you share some of your plans for Indie Untangled Everywhere?

I plan to introduce a few new products that I’ve been working to perfect with the help of my laser printers: new mirrored acrylic stitch markers, and silicone watch bands for Apple Watches.

What are some of the best things you’ve learned running your business?

I think the number one thing is that from day one I have treated Birdie Parker like a business, not a hobby. This has allowed me to grow exponentially, to the point where I have recently moved operations to a large warehouse and I’m beginning to take on employees to help with the workflow.

A silver bracelet with stockinette stitches etched into it.

When and how did you learn to knit?

The first time I picked up the needles, it was from a little kit that I found at Costco, of all places. I later realized that I spent the first handful of projects knitting through the back loop! Life then got in the way and I didn’t knit for about a dozen years. One day I was freezing at the bus stop and I thought, I really should knit myself a hat! I visited the nearest LYS, watched a lot of youTube videos, figured out how to properly execute that knit stitch, and off I went!

Do you enjoy other crafts in addition to knitting?

Around the same time I started that hat, I started to wonder how hard it would be to learn to spin yarn. Within a span of about three weeks, I had built myself a drop spindle, visited an alpaca farm and ordered myself a spinning wheel! In addition to spinning, I learned to weave when I inherited my husband’s family loom. I dabble a bit in sewing, embroidery, cross stitch and sashiko. Since starting the business, my free time has become quite limited, so I seem to have focused my efforts on hoarding yarn. I’m quite good at it.

A leather cuff with silver stitches.

What are your favorite skeins in your stash?

I have a terrible weakness for self-striping sock yarn and rainbow gradient sets.

A leather tray with the image of a yarn ball.

Tell me the projects that are currently on your needles.

Too many! I have 3/4 of a Love Note sweater, a half finished Rift tee, a pair of striped socks, a Junction Shawl and I’m sure a few others that I’m forgetting. The pandemic has been great for getting me to cast on projects but finishing them seems to be another issue!

Knitting in the time of COVID-19

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A rust and cream colorwork sweater.

Amira’s latest WIP is Ghost Horses by Caitlin Hunter, using Malabrigo Worsted.

Ed.’s note: I’m excited to welcome a new contributor to Indie Untangled, Amira Umphres! Amira’s first blog post was set to debut next month as part of another project, but I thought in this period of social distancing, there was an opportunity to “widen the circle” and introduce a new perspective to our virtual community.

It’s no secret that our worlds were turned upside down seemingly overnight. Lives have been disrupted, some of us working from home, working overtime — or out of work entirely.

My partner works at a grocery store and we’re never quite sure when he’ll be going to work or coming home now. His shifts have gone from eight hours to anywhere between 10 and 12.

Like so many others, I suddenly live in a world where my kids are no longer in school. And I’m faced with the reality of attempting to provide childcare and at-home schooling, all while still trying to generate an income.

With so little in the scope of our control, I’ve been searching in and out for things I can do to cope.

It might feel a bit ludicrous, but one small thing I’ve decided to do for myself? Keep knitting (and crocheting).

There are several reasons why. And I’ve got a few tips and ideas for staying crafty if you’ve also found yourself suddenly in the company of kids who are normally in school during the day.

Purple, aqua and orange crocheted squares.

One of Amira’s latest WIPs. “I’ve been crocheting more, which is a brand new skill for me.”

The Importance of Knitting for Well-Being

Anxiety skyrocketed for me this week. Facing a global pandemic has left me feeling entirely out of control.

Luckily, knitting can function as a coping mechanism while adjusting to the temporary “new normal.” Not only has research shown that knitting contributes to stress relief and feelings of calm, knitting also fuels our sense of community.

And if knitting is a part of your routine and something you look forward to, don’t let it go.

Participate in virtual knitting groups if you can. My favorite LYS, West 7th Wool in Fort Worth, Texas, is closed to the public until further notice, but they’ve shifted their weekly Thursday knit nights to a virtual meeting room in Zoom. The first one is tonight, and I’ll be attending like always.

Knitting with Little Ones Around

Many of us are perfectly aware of the benefits of knitting (and definitely want to keep doing it while we’re navigating tough feelings and disrupted lifestyles). But… once I got word that my kids would be home for the foreseeable future, I found myself in a bit of a pickle.

How can I possibly keep knitting with kids at home, and little to no help or childcare?

I homeschooled my daughters for a few years and routine was the one thing that kept us sane. Building predictability into my day not only helps my kids feel less anxious about the state of things, it also gives me the opportunity to carve out some time for self-care and crafting.

I tend to knit while my kids play in the yard, watch a movie, or play a video game. And I accept that when they’re awake, I won’t get as much knitting done as I’d like. I might be able to do a few rows, but interruptions are inevitable. I really dig into a project, and save things that take more focus, for when they’re asleep.

I’ve also started to learn to finger knit alongside my oldest daughter, who’s 8. I’ve made good use out of my scrap yarn this way. And it’s an activity that holds her attention for 10 to 15 minutes. I’ve been surprised by how many projects we’ve made: bracelets, flowers, and headbands, to name a few.

A girl holds a felted duck in green, blue and red.

My kids and I also enjoy wet felting together. It’s warm here in Texas, so we do this outdoors with wool roving and a bucket of soapy water. You can collect rocks to cover with felt, make felt eggs, felt bowls, and felt balls to turn into jewelry or anything you can dream up.

And since hand washing is at the top of everyone’s minds, one of my favorite felting projects to do with my kids is to make felted soap. It’s super fun — and a simple way I’ve been able to get my girls to wash their hands regularly.

Stay safe everyone, and happy knitting!

What to stash this week: The fifth element

Water with ripples and a reflection.

Christy of Les Belles Lainages loves seeing a person’s interpretation of color from a photo brought to life in fiber, and she is doing just that with her Elements yarn club. She’s using colorful photos of the four elements — air, earth, water and fire — as inspiration for a four-month club starting in January. Each month subscribers will receive two full skeins of extra fine Merino fingering, one that’s a variegated/speckled colorway and a coordinating tonal/solid, along with a fun gift.

Sign-ups are open until January 10 or until the club sells out.

A pattern wallet with cartoon sheep.

Set your alarms for today at 9 a.m. Pacific time, to snag products from a special re-release of Slipped Stitch Studio customer-favorite knitting and sheep-y fabrics!

A yellow crocheted shawl with the words Shawls on the side.

It’s time that you learned to crochet. And if you’re going to the Red Alder Fiber Arts Retreat (formerly Madrona) in February, Karen is teaching six crochet classes!

An otter with gray and brown yarn.

Kim of The Woolen Rabbit’s otterly adorable Everybody Otter Knit colorway, inspired by an otter in the Alaska Peninsula National Wildlife Refuge, is available to preorder online until next Friday, December 20. As always, 10% of sales will be donated to the National Park Foundation.